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Towards artificial photosynthesis on the lipid bilayer of liposomes

Artificial photosynthesis has recognised potential to produce green and sustainable fuels from earth-abundant resources such as water, carbon dioxide (CO2), and sunlight.

Klein, D.M.
15 September 2022
Thesis in Leiden Repository

In an artificial photosynthetic system, two half-reactions, such as water oxidation and proton reduction or CO2 reduction, have to be combined. To achieve such a system, it is crucial to have: a) efficient light-harvesting by the photosensitiser, b) stable catalysts for the oxidation and the reduction reaction, c) unidirectional proton and electron transport between the oxidation and the reduction site, ideally by a recyclable electron relay, d) efficient charge separation, and e) a strong, photostable membrane that does not leak molecular components. In natural photosynthesis, these requirements are achieved altogether using compartmentalisation, which consists in embedding the key components of the system, i.e. for green plants the oxygen evolving complex, photosystem I and II, and the natural electron relays, around the lipid bilayer of the thylakoid membrane. The use of spherical lipid membranes (such as liposomes) as biological mimics of the thylakoid membrane is a promising approach to confine half-reactions, facilitate charge separation, and avoid charge recombination and other undesired side-reactions. In the research described in this thesis, it was attempted to realise a full artificial photosynthetic system based on liposomes and several of the key intermediate steps were achieved: 1) unidirectional electron transfer across a liposomal membrane from an electron donor encapsulated in the interior of the liposome to an electron acceptor located outside (Chapter 2), and 2) photocatalytic reduction of CO2 (Chapter 3) and of protons (Chapter 4) at the surface of liposomes. Special attention was paid in Chapter 2 and Chapter 5 to the question of the (photo)stability of the membrane and light-induced leakage.

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